As much as I feel Ruben Amaro needs to be fired, I never got the impression that his job was in any real jeopardy. I’m starting to question that now.
It is quite possible that firing Charlie Manuel cost Ruben Amaro his job. David Montgomery is extremely loyal and reluctant to fire “family members,” which made Amaro's decision to fire mid-season the winningest manager in Phillies history and a man that David Montgomery hired so surprising.
In a recent radio interview Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “Well the Phillies traditionally — and this goes all the way back to the Carpenter family — they are very, very slow to change personnel, and they’re very loyal to their people."
It’s one thing if this was a group decision, but I have heard no reports that Montgomery was involved at all in the decision.
After the firing was announced Montgomery said, "Ruben Amaro let me know on Wednesday I think that he and Charlie had been visiting over this road trip and I understand that, appropriately so, that he felt it was time to let Charlie know about his decision."
Amaro made this move on his own.
If Ruben felt it was the right decision to fire Charlie mid-season, that is well within his right as GM, but it was not what you would consider a classy move. It might have been the right baseball move, but it wasn't a classy move and goes against the loyalty David Montgomery has always demonstrated.
The fact that Montgomery did not block the decision says that he probably felt it was best for the team. But he doesn’t do business that way and I can almost guarantee he would have waited until after the season to let his manager go.
A caller on the radio brought up a really interesting point this week about the press conference with Charlie and Ruben. With Charlie it was all about honesty and taking personal responsibility – he didn’t once mention during the press conference the lack of talent on the team.
Ruben, on the other hand, spread the blame equally among the front office whenever possible. "We win as an organization and we lose as an organization," Amaro said. "We're kind of in this thing together. This isn't a blame game. I'm not here to blame Charlie Manuel for our issues. I think we all have some responsibility in that regard, I think there are a lot of things that's happened in the last two years that've been unfortunate."
Throughout the press conference, Amaro made constant use of the word "we" rather than "I" and utilized "front office" instead of "me".
After firing a beloved figure due to mistakes he made as general manager, the last thing fans want to hear is excuses. But, then again, we aren't trying to save our jobs.
Jim Salisbury offered an aggressive line of questioning last week in an interview with Ruben Amaro which was an eye opener for me. With a target square on his back, it gave Amaro a chance to take some accountability for mistakes he made that led to Charlie's dismissal. If there was ever a time to admit to any fault, now would be the time. But Ruben instead continued offering excuses.
He now sounds like a GM who is trying to save his job. Is he starting to feel the footsteps?
Here are a few excerpts of Salisbury's interview.
Q. Do you hear people saying the Phillies fired the wrong guy?
A. I do not. I’m sure that there are people opining in different ways, but I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t think it does me or the organization any good to listen to that kind of stuff.
Q. Are you feeling heat from your bosses?
A. David Montgomery has been very supportive. David and the ownership group -- I know they’re disappointed, but they’re supportive. And until I don’t feel that support anymore, I’ll do anything I can do to get this turned around and our staff will do the same. We’ll do it. I believe we will.
Q. You have frequently mentioned that you’ve made mistakes in the bullpen. Evaluate your performance the last couple of seasons.
A. In some areas we’ve done OK. In others we have to improve. We’ve got to get better.
When we take chances in our bullpen, we have to make sure we fortify with better depth.
When we sign a guy like Mike Adams and he can’t perform and we lose the support of Antonio Bastardo because of a suspension, we have to do better by having guys that can step in and do it. And we have to ask the players to step up and do it.
We felt like we had depth with [Phillippe] Aumont and [Justin] De Fratus and [Jake] Diekman and some of the young guys. Aumont has struggled; didn’t take the step forward that we thought he would. Sometimes it’s on the player. Our job is to target guys we think can do a better job in that area.
Q. You’ve made a lot of moves, trades, signings, the last few years. Some worked, some didn’t. Any regrets?
A. I thought a lot of the things we did worked, to be frank with you. We didn’t put another ring on our finger in ‘09, ’10 or ’11, but we absolutely had a chance to. I believe we had championship-caliber clubs. We just didn’t get it done.
I try not to look back. I only look back in the sense we try to learn from things we did. My friends John Vukovich and Dallas Green always said you get very few chances to win a World Championship and when you have the opportunity to win a World Championship that’s what you should do, go for it. We came awfully close in ‘09. We arguably had the best team in baseball for two or three years. We just didn’t play well in the playoffs. I still believe the teams in ‘09, ’10 and ‘11 were better than the team in ’08, on paper. We just didn’t get it done because we didn’t play good baseball at the time.
Q. Did you see anything in the clubhouse, a lack of chemistry or togetherness, that led to manager change?
A. When the expectations are so high and you do not have success, I think it hits everybody across the board from fans to the front office to the players. There’s disappointment. I think that’s what you kind of saw. My job, and the job of the staff and the people in clubhouse and the players, is to get that mojo back. I think we started losing that over the last couple of years by virtue of the performance of the players and by virtue of the fact that our health started to deteriorate. Age was an issue, too. Age and health go hand in hand.
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